OPINION: I'd like to firstly congratulate the council on taking the initiative to hold the four recent meetings on Clifford Bay.
They were a very important first step in better understanding the impact on the region of the proposed relocation of the ferry terminal to the bay.
The meetings were a very valuable insight into the concerns people had about their own circumstances and the merits of constructing such a large piece of infrastructure at this location.
The meeting in Seddon and to a lesser degree the meetings in Blenheim and Havelock also identified the opportunities presented by the move.
I had the opportunity to attend all four meetings and drew some interesting conclusions.
The most obvious issue was why were there not more people at the meetings? The prospect of Clifford Bay is the biggest issue facing Marlborough. We are all set to be affected. While we will have one of the biggest construction projects in New Zealand at our doorstep, the additional infrastructure that will be required (water, sewerage, stormwater) will put pressure on rates, as will the reduced dividend from Port Marlborough.
Many businesses will be affected and not just those in Picton. State Highway 1 businesses reliant on passing traffic will all be facing major impacts on revenue with the resulting flow-on effect.
Accommodation providers and tour operators also face uncertainty. The very clear message is that if you haven't had your say to date you need to by February 25, which is when the reporting from this current round of consulting will be completed.
The meetings also made it very clear that we are going to need help to accurately understand the full impacts on Marlborough. Not just the financial impacts but also the social, cultural, and environmental effects which are just as important.
We are going to have to engage an organisation that is well experienced in this type of work. MP Colin King has suggested that the Government needs to be asked to meet at least part of the cost of this research.
Irrespective of whether it will or not, the work must be done.
Not only will the report show the effects but it also needs to identify what could potentially be done to replace the lost income and how we make the most of the opportunity that will have been forced upon us.
I also saw the passion and pride that people have for Marlborough. Not only from those who have lived here a long time but also relative newcomers.
I thought councillor Jessica Bagge summed it up very well when she said that while we cannot control the proposal to move the ferries to Clifford Bay we can control how we react to it.
We must take some control of the situation by ensuring we have a full understanding of the impacts on Marlborough and determining a clear path forward.
- The Marlborough Express